Lightning take boost of confidence, series lead back to Tampa

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SUNRISE — History is repeating itself through the first two games of this year’s Battle of Florida.

With Thursday’s 2-1 Lightning win over the Panthers in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, the Lightning are coming off their time in Sunrise with a 2-0 series lead, the same way they started Round 1 against the Panthers last postseason.

Tampa Bay has won nine postseason series and dropped none when opening with a pair of wins. It is 24-10 all time in Game 2s, a league-best .706 win percentage.

“You want to win every game, and you come on the road with that mentality, and you want to steal one, for sure. That’s definitely the mindset,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “But when you get that first one, we talk about, ‘Let’s get greedy here.’ “

Stamkos believes there’s room for growth this go-around against the Panthers.

“It’s a race to four (wins), so we know how good these guys are,” Stamkos said. “We went to six (games in the series) last year. We just have to have the same mindset — there’s no taking a breath now. We did our job here in an environment that is tough, obviously, to win in. … But let’s keep the foot on the gas.”

For the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers, who led the league with 122 points in the regular season, a short-term memory will be critical.

“We have to stay together, stay composed,” Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said. “Everybody understands that the next game is a big one. We can make a difference in the future and not in the past.”

Lightning forward Ross Colton, who scored Thursday’s winner with less than four seconds remaining in the game, said a 2-0 start on the road brings confidence to a group but the key is staying levelheaded.

“We are kind of just going to turn the page on this one,” Colton said. “Enjoy what we can, but we know they’re going to come on the road and come out flying just like you saw them (Thursday).”

The Panthers’ physicality Thursday — 52 hits to the Lightning’s 35 — is part of the reason coach Jon Cooper wasn’t overthinking “just one game.” Last year, Tampa Bay lost Game 3 in overtime.

“We’re two games closer to where we want to be, but we’re not there yet,” Cooper said. “(Thursday) was just one game. We’re here to win a series.”

Lightning named ‘Sports Team of the Year’

Fans cheer as Steven Stamkos leads his team around the ice , hoisting the Stanley Cup after the Lightning shut out the Canadiens in Game 5 last year. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
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The Lightning on Wednesday were named Sports Business Journal’s “Sports Team of the Year.”

This is the fourth straight season the Lightning finished in the top three in overall league attendance. New-season-ticket revenue totaled $5.7 million, and sponsorship revenue numbers were 120 percent of the league average, including a 10 percent year-over-year increase.

Lightning CEO Steve Griggs accepted the award in New York on behalf of the team.

“Another trophy we can drink out of,” Griggs said in a release. “We have a saying at the Lightning: excellence with humility. Each and every day, every game, presentation, every fan experience is about excellence.”

Round 2 schedule

Game 1 — Lightning at Panthers, 4-1 win

Game 2 — Lightning at Panthers, 2-1 win (Lightning lead series 2-0)

Game 3 — Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Game 4 — Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m. Monday

Game 5 — Lightning at Panthers, Wednesday, May 25 (if necessary)

Game 6 — Panthers at Lightning, Friday, May 27 (if necessary)

Game 7 — Lightning at Panthers, Sunday, May 29 (if necessary)

Bally Sports Sun is hosting an hour-long live postgame show throughout the series. The show will feature highlights and interviews with the players and head coach Jon Cooper, in addition to insight from Lightning play-by-play broadcaster Dave Randorf, analyst Brian Engblom and host Paul Kennedy. Watch online at BallySports.com, on TV or in the Bally Sports app.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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